31 SES 09 A, Multilingual Children, Language Development and Research Methods
The paper discusses creative techniques of data collection employed in a PhD enquiry into issues faced by Russian-speaking migrant pupils living in England and the way these issues relate to personality development and language learning motivation at Key Stage Two (7-11 year old children). Creative techniques are used to address the research question - How does the experience of being a Russian-speaking migrant child in a L2 school environment co-affect personality development on social actor and motivated agent levels? The study’s significance is that it could contribute to an understanding of the place and influence of Russian-speaking migrant pupils as well as other linguistic minority groups in the diverse cultural realities (Holliday, 2011) of the classrooms in other European countries. Research into the area of Russian-speaking migrant children with English as an additional language (EAL) is pertinent to the schools given that the percentage of newly-arrived EAL students with Russian as first language in the UK state-funded primary schools has nearly tripled in just 8 years (from 3,511 pupils to 9,722 pupils) (Department for Education, 2016). Research related to this has been undertaken in other European countries such as Finland (Räty et al., 2010; Laihiala-Kankainen, 1998) and the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) (Šumskas et al., 2012), but to date there is no known L2 (second language) study of this in English schools. Vygotsky’s Sociocultural theory (SCT) purports, that change of socio-cultural environment, and consequently language by migrant children, influences the overall psychological and personality development process (Lantolf and Poehner, 2014; Vygotsky, 2005). This is particularly significant, given that Russian-speaking children in England with respect to issues associated with their linguistic and pedagogical needs are exacerbated by their reported ‘invisibility’ (Kopnina, 2005). The age of the children, together with issues associated with the language and minority status of the children, raised practical issues which can be addressed through the use of creative questions.
The use of creative techniques is located within a theoretical framework which is ‘constructed’ through using a combination of overarching and narrower focused theories (Anfara and Mertz, 2006). The overarching theory is SCT which provides broad based social level or macro-substantive dimensions (Hammersley and Atkinson, 2007, p. 188). Vygotsky's (2005; 1982) theory allows one to explore the psychological and language-related processes in the context of the L2 school culture, linking sociocultural environment, language and personality, focusing on an individual as a centre of analysis. However, a limitation of this theory for my study is that it does not suggest any specific trajectories (or possible stages) of psychological changes and subsequent learning changes pertinent to the mediational action, or the use of tools in learning. This issue is addressed through the use of complexity (chaos-based theory) described as a 'theory of survival, evolution, development and adaptation' (Morrison, 2002, p. 6, cited in Mason, 2008, p. 33). Chaos theory allows one to study specific transformation processes (Sade, 2011) pupils may undergo, and 'how these changes might be expressed in their personal lives and their professional practice' (i.e. schooling) (Karpiak, 2006, p. 86). The combination of these theories is a recently developed dialectic DST (KarimiAghdam, 2016a; 2016b). Individual level theories, or narrower conceptual theories used to explain micro-formal, situation-specific data, i.e. micro-substantive dimensions (Hammersley and Atkinson, 2007, p. 188), are McAdams’ Personality development theory (2015a; 2015b, 2015c) and Taylor’s Language Learners’ identity typology (2013; 2010) applied to explain social actor level of personality development. Self-determination theory (Ryan and Deci, 2000), Higgins’ (1987) Self-discrepancy theory and Dörnyei’s(2009) L2 Motivation Self-System Theory serve as lens of explaining language learning motivation (motivated agent level) of Russian-speaking migrant children.
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